The Obama administration’s first federal budget is officially going out in an hour, but one central feature is already well-known: the basic outlines of his “down payment on universal health care.” $634 billion over ten years has been reserved for this purpose.
But the more important fact about Obama’s health care proposal is its structure. And as Ezra Klein explained yesterday, it is carefully designed to nicely mesh with existing Senate Democratic proposals–principally legislation sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and a “white paper” issued by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)–even at the expense of departing somewhat from what Obama proposed as a candidate for president:
Obama is signaling support for the congressional consensus. The skeletal health plan outlined in tomorrow’s budget has been built to fit the work Congress is already doing on health care reform. As such, it will being with committed allies. It will not lose time defining new concepts to skeptical committee chairs. It will respect and support the existing legislative coalitions It is a strategy aimed at ensuring votes. At passing legislation. At achieving consensus, or as close to it as the Senate can come.
Klein contrasts this approach to that of the Clintons in 1993, who designed a health care reform plan, with a considerable degree of secrecy, that wasn’t really like anything under discussion on Capitol Hill. If for that reason alone, Team Obama begins this health care reform debate with an important leg up on their predecessors.